end of the year

So, if you know me, you know I love a couple of things – arts and crafts and personalization. I worked with many, many amazing people this year, but I wanted to share my gratitude to two of my coworkers who picked up my slack, poured in ideas, took great initiative, and truly eased the burden of so much “stuff” that had to happen this year. Enter Treat Greeting Cards. You know Shutterfly, right? You may have ordered Christmas cards from them like we have! …. Well, Treat a newer brand of theirs! This website and their products have absolutely stolen my crafty, personalized loving heart! The specialize in cards, phone cases, and mugs; fun, useful items like that! I went to order these two gals cards thinking I would just be able to add a picture and my own greeting/signature.  I was already stressing thinking I had to find a card that would communicate something close to what I wanted to say. I even feared I’d have to be uber creative in making a card “work” that really didn’t. But, when I say I personalized just about EVERY aspect of  these cards. Ya’ll I was in heaven. Heaven. Heaven. Heaven. The fact that I was able to personalize the message sent me over the moon!! Annnnnd, then they came on the day they Treat said they would. Yes, they give you an accurate delivery date and will even send the card to your bud or stud if time is of the essence. THRILLED. I mean. I couldn’t be happier! The gals seemed to really enjoy them and one of my other coworkers is already planning and creating cards for a few of her friends! I mean, who wouldn’t want their face with a personalized message on a card?!

Check these out! while simultaneously excusing my work area. I live/work/paint/etc here!! amy2dewalt2Yes, I threw in a little Aibileen from The Help!!

Then… Two more of my favorite things in the entire world – painting and personalization collide…. Every single cheer or classroom gift I’ve given my kids has been an initial, a personalized picture frame (complete with their name & photograph!), SOMETHING with their name on it… and, I’ve made it myself. With attempting to not make it look homemade. lol. 

This year, my vision for my cheerleaders’ gifts were chalkboards. And, as frustrated as I was about the paint pens not making precise, clean lines – it does kinda look like chalk. I had to seriously fight my inner perfectionist and not focus so much on what is “wrong” or why it isn’t perfect and delight in the fact that it looks just like what I wanted it to look like. (Doesn’t life just work out that way sometimes?) I love that the black paint has a slight, slight shimmer to it, too!!! Annnnnd, I didn’t get paint of any furniture or carpet this time!! Woooooot!!!

Here are a few of the finished “chalkboards” aleshadanielle And, then my heart was happy.

… cheers to finding new ways to love on those you love and appreciate most!!!
(And, you still have time to love on your kiddos’ teachers, your fave coworker, classmate, teammate or WHOEVER before that very last day of school!!!)

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… created and beloved

Over the past year and a few months, I have graciously been a part of a community of women who have supported, encouraged, and been true friends to me. Women spread all across the country who I have come to know, whose children I’ve watched come into their homes by birth or adoption and grow. For months we’ve emailed, texted, and had heart to heart phone conversations.

Now, allow me to top the heartfelt off with a large dollop of random – I met all of these women on Instagram.
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But, this weekend – I met them, for the first time, in person. And, we knew each other – not in the biblical sense but in the sister to sister I know where you are kinda way. In the way that causes you to hug so tightly forever and tears stream down your face because you KNOW they just get it. We caught up, we prayed, cried, worshipped, and ate. We had late night talks in pj’s and drank wine. We escaped families, work, and all obligations for a couple of days to come together for the Created for Care Conference in Georgia for a weekend of community.

So, let’s add a few sprinkles of crazy on top of the dollop of random, and let me tell you how grateful I am for trusting God about this conference.

If you know me, you know that I do not talk to people I don’t know. I know I come of either really rude or intensely snobby, but I honestly freeze up and have no words when it comes to talking to people I’ve met for the first time. I’m sorry. So. Enter Instagram where it’s okay to follow the lives of people you don’t know and gush. As our adoption story unfolded, I became more and more involved in the (amazing) adoption community on IG. As I was stalking  going through IG in August, I ran across a page publicizing a Christian adoptive mama conference. In Georgia. In a very un-Alaina like way, I go online and register. Then don’t think much of it. Fast forward to February, my adoptive mama friends are increasing; all these women I’ve come to just uhdore are planning to go to this conference in either February or March. I’m stoked. We’re talking about it and getting excited. A Facebook group was formed, dinner assignments have been emailed and we’re emailing and texting like mad. (Because those are the things you do with people you’ve followed for a good portion of a year and plan to see each other.) So. another God act that’s very un-Alaina like… I went solo. And, decided that I need a roommate and that a carpool for the hour drive from the airport would be cool. And, in another very un-Alaina like way, I post my conundrum on the FB group. And, people respond. I find my roommates on this group and plan to hop in a car my fraaaand, Wynne who I met online, and her friend who I didn’t know.

We meet at the airport and I have a bite with her and other of her friends while we wait for our other car pool buddy.

Criminal Minds story in the making one would think.
But, it was perfect. Everything it was supposed to be.
And, I had a good time.

This conference was everything spectacular in the ways that I would have never imagined. Aside from the fact that I almost died running a 5k with the steepest of hills and highest altitude I’ve ever run in, I had an amazing time. The good thing about my run is that although my time was a couple of minutes higher than normal and my Strava app crapped out on me, I wasn’t running for an hour like I thought I’d been. And, I got a cool little much & water bottle after crossing the finish.

My favorite part of the actual conference was Beth Gukenberger…  look her up, you won’t regret it; she was nothing short of amazing. She spoke some downright truths that stung, shed light on concepts I’d never thought of, and encouraged me in so many ways. Told stories that laid. us. out and caused us to thank God for the goodness He shows towards others. On my flight home, I edited pictures and went through notes from the weekend connecting dots I hadn’t thought of and jotting down questions I’m eager to find answers to. I was challenged in my thoughts of raising adopted children and left with a desire to pursue God even more than before. Felt empowered to do what we were created to do – be the hands and feet of God.

Another interesting to d0…. be it that I was the only black woman at the retreat (aside from a panel of speakers that spoke to raising Black children in non-black households),  I had an interesting experience. (And, yes… I’m still going back next year.) This is going to sound crazy and very racist but… in an effort to continue to be honest about my experiences, I’m going to say it. Because, I want to and then because it’s true.
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First, I love that my White friends have no issue with adopting children (for one) and adopting African or Black children. None. At. All. I love that. I admire how they follow Jesus so closely that they take the commission to caring for the orphan and the shared idea of adopting because we were adopted by a God who loves us so deeply, so literally and with great passion. With the number of kids they already have not prohibiting them from adopting more children more than once. Or, having a family of soley adopted children of different races.  It’s not my favorite fact that adoption in the African American community is rare. I do recognize that there are Blacks who adopt but in real life, it’s not many at all. (And, I’m eager to find a group of families that do!) And, I find that sad and disappointing. Granted, I was one of the women who literally said, “I want my own kids before I adopt”… I think about that and am ashamed a because it came from such an arrogant, short sighted, and self absorbed place. So, I get it but man to open the eyes of others about adoption would be a huge, huge experience. Although adoption is not easy; it is beautiful and world changing on so many different levels. Your view of your relationship with God and people changes dramatically, the ends you’re willing to go to, and the way you so easily connect with others going through the same or nearly the same processes is scary and moves you to bunk with with people you don’t know. And, you’re okay with it because you realize that God is bigger than so many of the things we tend to focus on.

One of the major stand out phrases of this past weekend was “… we don’t have to, we get to…” and I cling to that and love thought deeply. It’s so applicable to every aspect of your life. You don’t have to respect your husband, you get to. You don’t have to honor God, you get to. You don’t have to forgive others, you get to. You get to. It’s a privilege you get to do because of the grace of God. That’s huge! We have the humbling privilege of bringing these children out of hard places and raising them to love and serve God BIG. The tough, sad, and difficult things that are placed in front of us are both humbling and challenging simply because we are called to do them for the sake of The Lord’s name. It’s the tough stuff that honors God. That’s where we’re weaned off of milk. That’s where we’re stretched to depend on our God soley because he’s leading us to hop out of pretty amazing boats into deep waters where we have no choice but to trust the one we claim to love.

The theme of the conference was “Be love, Be loved, Beloved.” and how fitting. How fitting is it to gather these women together who have stretched themselves thin, who willingly go through the worst of the worst, the saddest of the sad, and come out on the other end praising a God whose plans put them in protected yet difficult places….

Can’t help but find comfort in Isaiah 40: 26-31….
How sweet it is to know that He, the creator and sustainer of all, sees us and gives us strength to do the things He calls us to do when we grow weary and want to just quit.

This God we serve and seek so fervently after has greater things for us to do… He has people for us to reach, love on, and be there for. He has people to become ‘our’ people. If we would just step out, he would provide our people and resources to be there for us. to lean on. to gain wisdom from. to form a community of believers with. He’d give us people to ‘go’ with.

We get to practice Heaven right here. We get to show the love of Jesus to others. We get to be there for our sisters and brothers who are standing by our side.

So we can hop in cars and share bathrooms with our Jesus loving friends because our focuses are bigger than ourselves.
We can offer and implore others to come along side of us because of the need and friendship.
It’s about Jesus and what he’s called us to do.

Be love.
to others.

Be loved.
by others.

And, bask in the presence of, relinquish our desires to, and find comfort in the one who calls us His
Beloved.

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… waiting

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I’ve posted promises every day this month and when I tell you they are doing a number on my soul…..

I love how God’s words are resounding in my mind, they are coming out in prayers and chats with God, they are settling and calming me like nothing else has.

My momma clock has been going off like mad for the past few weeks and my heart is truly breaking more and more each day.

But, I know God is moving and has an amazing plan for our life as a family and our lives as individuals. And, I’m confident that it’s all for God’s glory. That hope is the only thing keeping me going.

I’m grateful for the peace and calmness God has given me. I’d have been a noisy, nervous wreck by now pressing and pushing for something to happen now – but I am so thankful God is quieting my spirit. I’m thankful for the peace He is granting me, I’m glad he’s positioning me to learn to wait on Him and trusting Him in the process. It’s not easy but I know it will be worth it.

This wait, although sad, is good. I know God is preparing our hearts for who He will bring into our home & He’s shaping us for what He will have us to do later. Whatever it is will be for our good & His glory.

I’m waiting patiently. Trusting God. Standing firm on His promises.

… here’s to trusting God with the hard stuff knowing all of it is being worked together for our/my good.

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